Max makes a point for Essex Schools
PUBLISHED: 08:00 28 February 2017
Essex 1 Sussex 1
Max Watters scored a second-half equaliser to ensure Essex Schools secured a share of the spoils against Sussex in their latest SEESFA league fixture.
Shenfield High School’s Watters converted a Tom Dance centre in the 77th minute after Alfie Rogers had given Sussex the advantage from the penalty spot a quarter of an hour into the encounter at the Lakeside Sports Ground.
And in a grandstand finish, Barking Abbey’s Solomon Ogunwomuju hit the post for Essex as they pressed for the win.
Graham Hall’s side, who will face Durham in the final of the English Schools FA National Inter-County Trophy later this season, had lost their opening league fixture of the campaign against Hampshire.
But they enjoyed numerous opportunities to win this clash and may feel disappointed not to have taken all three points ahead of their trip to Kent.
Essex had the first chance of the game after 12 minutes when Watters saw his shot from a Sam Mvemba cross charged down, and the hosts thought they had taken the lead 60 seconds later when Ogunwomuju tapped home a square Jayde Abraham pass, only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.
Play switched immediately to the opposite end and Sussex were awarded a spot-kick when the referee identified an infringement in the penalty area as a set-piece was delivered into the danger zone.
Rogers sent Abbey goalkeeper Ibrahim Ugradar the wrong way from 12 yards to give Sussex the lead but Watters – who will soon link up with the England Under 18s Schoolboys squad as they attempt to win the Centenary Shield – was at the forefront of much of Essex’s attacking play.
And his 20th-minute pass for Toby Aromolaran led to a skidding effort which was saved by Sussex keeper Anton Matthäi.
Watters slid a ball through for Ogunwomuju midway through the half and he seemed certain to score as he outpaced the visiting defence, only for Matthäi to brilliantly deflect the ball out for a corner.
Ogunwomuju glanced a header from the set-piece across the face of goal from the edge of the six-yard box, then went even closer to levelling the scores on 28 minutes when his left-footed free kick from 25 yards clipped the top of the crossbar before Matthäi turned Aromolaran’s first-time attempt around the post four minutes later.
Skipper Kieran Gore then nodded Abraham’s corner over to leave Essex trailing at the interval.
Ugradar had been called upon to save a shot through a crowded penalty area towards the end of the opening period and, at the start of the second half, he watched nervously as Rogers narrowly failed to stab home a right-wing cross.
However, Essex were soon attacking again, with Aromolaran nodding over Ogunwomuju’s 49th-minute delivery.
Two minutes later Aromolaran turned provider, setting up Abraham for an effort which was blocked, and it appeared that Sussex may have ridden out the storm as the tempo of the game dropped.
But Essex regrouped and launched into another succession of attacks in the final 25 minutes, as Aromolaran chased down a Watters pass in the 66th minute to advance one-on-one with Matthäi, but his shot, which had been blocked, bounced agonisingly back over the crossbar.
And then came the equaliser as Dance, who had been introduced as a second-half substitute, produced a rampaging run down the left flank and picked out Watters with a pinpoint pass, before a calm finish beyond Matthäi.
That was the signal for Essex to push on again and they threw bodies forward in search of a winner, with Ogunwomuju glancing Sam Mvemba’s perfect left-wing cross wide of the right-hand upright in the 80th minute.
The forward then nodded a Watters centre at Matthäi after rising above his marker at the back post, before the opportunity Essex had been waiting for arrived in the 89th minute.
Watters tormented his marker on the right wing to swing the ball into the penalty area but it was just out of the reach of Aromolaran at the near post and Ogumwomuju crashed his far post effort against the woodwork.
The home side almost grabbed a winner during seven minutes of stoppage time, with Ogumwomuju providing the left-wing delivery on both occasions. From the first cross, Dance nodded over before Matthäi saved as Watters scuffed his shot from 15 yards out.
Essex: Ibrahim Ugradar (Barking Abbey), Misha Djemaili (Barking Abbey), Harry Hart (Plume), Kieran Gore (Shenfield High), Olaniji Ayoola (Barking Abbey), Jayde Abraham (Barking Abbey), Toby Aromolaran (Harris Academy), Tyler Richardson (Shenfield High), Max Watters (Shenfield High), Sam Mvemba (Barking Abbey), Solomon Ogunwomuju (Barking Abbey). Substitutes (repeated): Tom Dance (SEEVIC), Rowan Newland (Barking Abbey).